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I’m always on the hunt for teachable moments, so every once and a while my heightened awareness is rewarded.

Check out this Facebook Marketplace post…

It’s funny how drastically a message can change when there’s just one omitted word.

create a path for your prospects to followOf course, this is just a Facebook post…

But many businesses are guilty of similar omissions as well with their ads, marketing, and websites–and they’ve got much more at stake than a child’s tea set.

In fact, many more businesses would succeed if they’d put a little more care and planning behind their words and sales funnels.

Your Market Needs Clarity

This article isn’t a PSA on editing and proofreading.

But as I’ve observed whenever I say something that crosses the line (almost daily, for those of you keeping track), words mean things.

Details matter.

Words have the power to repel and attract, piss off and persuade.

Figuring out the clear, unambiguous message you want to get across—and how best to present it—makes it easier for prospects to see how your business fits into the puzzle they’re trying to solve.

This clarity makes you relevant.

Just like the Facebook Marketplace seller above who darkly changed the meaning of her ad by omitting a word, your sales funnel can be altered by similar omissions—or more commonly, through no plan at all.

Creating a “Yellow Brick Road” For Your Prospects

Tell me if any of these descriptions remind you of a business you’ve seen:

  • Website lists everything the company does and sells
  • Website features the company history prominently, with links going everywhere
  • Marketing is more of a public service announcement about everything the company does–similar to the website for its lack of focus
  • Generic calls-to-action (if any exist), but not much more than “hey, we do stuff.. call us–if you want to”
  • There’s nothing indicating to the client that there’s anything more for them to buy from the company after the initial purpose–Can the business still help the client? Maybe, but the client can’t tell.

From what I’ve seen with clients, prospects, and from general observation, this is how most businesses operate.

It makes sense: unless a person’s business is marketing (or they invest in someone who does it for them), they’re just doing the best they can while they work their craft. Their marketing has the precision of a bullhorn shouting at random groups of passersby.

And if this sounds like your business, have no fear…

I’m going to show you a better way.

Think of Your Products and Services as Markers Along a Path

Just about any product or service you can think of has a logical path. For example, if you hire a company to clean your gutter, the next natural service might be gutter guards or gutter repair; they may notice damage to your roof, which leads to roof repair or replacement. Every business has a similar product path.

And when you define that path, you get to enjoy three distinct benefits:

  1. You know what to sell first
  2. You know what to talk about in your marketing
  3. Your prospects know exactly how you can help them (and what to buy)
  4. It helps to think of your products and services in a linear way, with a beginning, side-paths, and scenic vistas along the way and (hopefully) without an end.

This isn’t to say a customer can’t jump into your services mid-path, but this gives forward momentum once they become a client.

Plus, having a “beginning” to your products also forces you to focus your messaging toward that one, single starting point.

It creates laser-focus in all your marketing and communication.

Here’s an outline that illustrates the focus…

general sales funnel

Once you’ve created that product path, all media and marketing efforts, including your website, serve the purpose of driving prospects to your starting point.

This is the first step of your funnel.

This can be a free doo-dad, a service, product, etc.

The purpose here is to qualify the suspect as a prospect, and then further qualify them by moving them along the funnel until they either don’t quality, or you decide they’re a prospect you’d like doing business with.

The Beauty of Clarity: Prospects Know What to Do

In the end, all marketing is inviting people to engage in the starting point of your funnel.

There’s no ambiguity.

If they engage with Step 1 of your funnel, the next wave of marketing is focused on getting them to take Step 2, then Step 3, and so forth.

If it’s done right, your prospects will never wonder how you can help them, where you fit in their world, or what they should do next.

The Path Naturally Leads to Your Next Product or Service

The power of this level of clarity is that once a person buys your product, they know what to buy next from you.

You’ve got it all planned out—upsells, downsells—your prospects and clients know exactly what they need to do next.

For example, in my company, if a client buys an email sequence that introduces their prospects to their universe, the next step is a “nurture” sequence that’s sent to non-buyers and drives them back to a sales page. Once a client buys that nurture sequence, it makes sense to look at their overall messaging, products, sales funnels, website, etc. There’s a natural flow.

Some Examples of Product Paths

Marketing Agency

Master marketer Neil Patel owns a marketing agency, and while his “product” can be boiled down to a single service, the path his prospects follow is precisely defined.

All his efforts (at least, that he’s shared publicly) point to a specific process that dazzles, nurtures, qualifies, and sells prospects on his $100K+ services.

Here’s a diagram of how he acquires leads, qualifies them, and turns them into clients:

quiz or survey funnel

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Neil gets people to his website, where he has a free site analysis tool
  • People who use the tool are asked a series of questions (quiz)
  • The quiz places prospects into general buckets based on key factors that qualify the prospect
  • Qualified prospects are called by sales reps, who Neil says have a 50% close rate

Pretty darn solid.

Professional Services Business

Let’s not stop with Neil’s model and get into something I really love: open webinars to long-form webinars.

This model is great for those in professional services industries (i.e., attorneys, insurance brokers, consultants, and the list goes on…).

Here’s the diagram…

professional services funnel

As you can see in the diagram, all marketing actions drive visitors to an “open webinar”, which is an executive summary-style video explaining something of real interest to the prospect. It’s called an “open webinar” because it doesn’t require an email or other contact information to view it.

The idea is to give them a taste of a topic you dive into much deeper on a long-form webinar. This webinar requires contact information and can be anywhere from 45-90 minutes.

People who stick around to the end are interested in what you have to say and are invited to get on a call to see if it makes sense to talk further.

This can take a number of directions, including a personalized in-depth seminar at the prospects offices. In our model above, we have the sales funnel ending with a 2-step sales process: one call with a rep who qualifies the lead and schedules the second call; and a second call with the “closer” who goes deeper with the prospect and sells the service if it’s a good fit.

The structure of this model has been around for decades, but social media, email, webinars, etc., make it scalable.

And the fuel that makes this engine run is laser-focused messaging that gets prospects to take that first step on the product path.

Don’t Leave Anything Up to Chance… Show Your Prospects the Way
Nothing kills sales faster than forcing your prospects and clients to figure out how you can help them and how to engage with you.

Providing a clear path not only boosts sales, but it makes your marketing incredibly simple—you just need to direct your prospects to the first step in your product path to start enjoying the benefits of clarity.

Recapping the benefits of creating a planned product path:

  1. Your prospects will know what to do
  2. Prospects understand how you fit into their puzzle
  3. Prospects know what they need to do next
  4. Prospects know how your business can continue helping them for the long-haul

What’s Next

Look at your products and services and think about the natural buying flow.

Ask yourself some simple questions:

  • What’s the first product a client is most likely to buy?
  • What dilemmas does buying that product create?
  • Do they need training or coaching to really enhance their use of the product?
  • What other challenges are they facing that can be solved with other products? These can be bigger challenges (upsells), or small ones (downsells).

For example, if you sell grills you might think of it this way:

  • Client buys grill
  • You sell them charcoal
  • Next maybe they need to upgrade their grill
  • Do they need a grill cover? Gloves? Turners? Thermometers?
  • Do you offer a grilling class so people can turn out restaurant-quality food, or barbecue that any pitmaster would be proud of?
  • Just think about what your clients need and want, and create a product path with natural places to buy along the way.

Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t direct you to MY first step… which is to download the following guide: